International Organization


One small step for functionalism: UN participation and Congressional attitude change

Robert E. Riggs

As an explanation of organizational growth at the international level, functionalism postulates that people who become personally involved in the activities of international agencies will develop attitudes more favorable to international cooperation. Analysis of speeches by United States Congressmen and Senators before and after serving as delegates to the UN General Assembly indicates that significant attitudinal change may occur. At the cognitive level, Congressmen tend to pay more attention to the UN than before. The majority also experience positive change in affect toward the UN. In addition, the data provide evidence of convergence toward a mean value as participants initially holding the more extreme views (positive or negative) generally express more moderate opinions as a result of the UN experience. The fact that such a leveling of expectations occurs at a significantly higher level of favorability gives modest support to the functionalist thesis.


Professor of Law at the J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University. Research for this paper was supported by United States Government National Endowment for the Humanities Grant RO-8812–76–400, the University of Minnesota Office of International Programs, and the J. Reuben Clark Law School. The research assistance of Barbara Chisholm, Ngyuen Cao Dam, Mitchel Joelson, Timothy King, Nathan Kirk, B. Carol Pierce, and Lynn Schumann is gratefully acknowledged. Special thanks are due Richard S. Beal and Stanley A. Taylor for helpful comments on an earlier draft of the paper.